It’s been eight months since I started working from home. I’m with a company called Bloom Solutions; it’s a fintech startup based in the Philippines. Everyone works remotely; we meet face-to-face once or every other a week. Sometimes a few people meet up together in a coffee shop for tightly done work. Other than that, under normal circumstances, most of the work being punched out is done at home.
“Working from home” certainly has its benefits:
Probably the most valuable benefit. No more 1 1/2 hour one-way commutes, it saves me 3 hours of being on the road. When it rains, make that 4 hours + 400PHP for getting Uber or Grab. Computing that on the back of the napkin, that’s 15 hours a week spent on the road. Its 60 hours a month, equivalent to 2.5 days a month. If you compute that over a year, it’s equivalent to 30 days being the road. A month where I could’ve spent somewhere else. I now spend more time with my newborn, help out my wife around the house, exercise, hobbies, and time for other things.
Minimal personal expenses
No parking expense. No commute expense. No gas expense. No “lunch money” expense. Cook food and eat at home.
Work not scoped to location
I go out of the country, go to Tagaytay, go to a beach. It’s all okay; just sync timezones and schedules with the team and make sure that you have no client-facing meetings scheduled.
As long as I sync with the team and not miss out on any important meetings, I can do errands and still put out the work needed. Gone are the days that you’ll have to take a leave to get your VISA or Driver’s License.
Environment fosters tangible results for Creatives/Knowledge-workers
Work from home can be one of those ways to leave little place for programmers to operate in a “body shop” mentality. “Body shop” mentality is a certain mindset where “number of hours being inside the office” is the subconscious metric to measure productivity. Working from home, however, can provide a setup for people to produce tangible value instead of just waiting for 5 pm to arrive. Most people get this feeling that when co-workers are around, you subconsciously feel the need to make it look like you’re always working on something. Always. Still working on something. Typing something. Is the boss in the office? Display that busy IDE. Make random meetings.
When you’re working at home, you’re by yourself; it’s just between you and that task list. Just get those done. Sit down, write down the details of what you’re working on, work on a task, ship it, and check that task off the list. Make sure your co-workers can pick up, understand what you wrote, see what’s finished and what’s not. Otherwise, nothing will happen, and the company will feel the missing pieces of the work coming from you. Take note that this doesn’t apply to specific industries, and culture dictates how people operate in a self-sustaining manner more than a “remote work” setup.
The meetings revolve around strategy, direction, and design decisions. No 1-hour meetings discussing status updates or doing follow-ups.
Though it certainly has it’s disadvantages:
Distraction from Friends and Relatives
When friends and relatives are visiting, this is how it usually goes when my wife mentions to them I work from home: “Oh! Does he work from home? That sounds great! Hey Ace, how’s working from home? Anyway, have you watched the new season of Stranger Things?”. “Umm, it’s great!”. As much as I want not to offend you, please let me focus. This same situation applies to people in the office; the difference between working from home is: the people around you aren’t working. Your lack of interactivity would sometimes come across wrongly to relatives and friends. To some, because you’re in your PJ’s, it doesn’t have much visual weight as someone in the office, you may come across as someone being available for chit-chat.
Solution - Smile and gently tell them that you’re currently working, and they won’t bother you as much instead of just deflecting their chit chat.
Blurring Lines between Life and Work
In the first few weeks, you wouldn’t know that it’s already at the weekend. Life and work are blurred together. I try to place some distance between them. Before I face my laptop, I take a bath, brush my teeth, wear something else aside from my PJs, have my breakfast, and then “go” to work. This “distance” involves going to a place in the house where my “office chair” and “table” resides. Then there’s your wife and your children. They know you shouldn’t be bothered, so they don’t, but really, they’re there. It’s hard not to talk to Elain and play with Navi when I’m just a tap away.
Solution - We’ve established a group of hours where I can help out in chores or hold/play with Navi. Mainly breakfast, lunch, and afternoon snack time. Elain also asks first if I’m on a Pomodoro break, or if I’m waiting for CI to pass and build images so that she can ask for help and small favors.
Being at home may make you fall into the temptation of just binge-watching videos, surfing social media, or looking at HackerNews. Just make sure to maintain discipline, focus, and be systematic with how you spend your time.
Solution - I have my time tracker, Harvest, and keep track of what I’m working on and my time. This rhythm gets me going.
I’ll probably update this post as time goes by, it’s undoubtedly a life-changing on-going experience.